Analyzing a Critical Reasoning Boldface Question

Stacey Koprince —  July 3, 2013 — 1 Comment

gmat critical reasoning boldfaceRecently, we published the Master Resource List for Critical Reasoning, but I had to link to an older version of a Boldface explanation because I hadn’t yet written an article using the new process. I’m remedying that gap now. (Note: technically, these are called Describe the Role questions.)

Try this problem out! Give yourself about 2 minutes (though it’s okay to stretch to 2.5 minutes on a long one like this as long as you are making progress.)

Consumer advocate: It is generally true, at least in this state, that lawyers who advertise a specific service charge less for that service than lawyers who do not advertise. It is also true that each time restrictions on the advertising of legal services have been eliminated, the number of lawyers advertising their services has increased and legal costs to consumers have declined in consequence. However, eliminating the state requirement that legal advertisements must specify fees for specific services would almost certainly increase rather than further reduce consumers’ legal costs. Lawyers would no longer have an incentive to lower their fees when they begin advertising and if no longer required to specify fee arrangements, many lawyers who now advertise would increase their fees.

In the consumer advocate’s argument, the two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?

(A) The first is a generalization that the consumer advocate accepts as true; the second is presented as a consequence that follows from the truth of that generalization.

(B) The first is a pattern of cause and effect that the consumer advocate argues will be repeated in the case at issue; the second acknowledges a circumstance in which that pattern would not hold.

(C) The first is a pattern of cause and effect that the consumer advocate predicts will not hold in the case at issue; the second offers a consideration in support of that prediction.

(D) The first is evidence that the consumer advocate offers in support of a certain prediction; the second is that prediction.

(E) The first acknowledges a consideration that weighs against the main position that the consumer advocate defends; the second is that position.

Step 1: Identify the Question

The argument itself contains the most common clue for a Describe the Role question: boldface font in the text. This clue doesn’t always exist but it is usually there. The question stem also signals the type by asking for the role played by the two portions in boldface.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

All right, this is a Role question. The argument will contain a conclusion, and the boldface portions will relate to the conclusion in one of three broad ways:

  1. The boldface text could be the conclusion.
  2. The boldface text could support the conclusion.
  3. The boldface text could be anything else (including neutral background), though most commonly it will be either  counter-premise or a counter-conclusion.

Here’s what I thought and wrote while I did the problem. Your own thought process won’t be exactly the same as mine and, of course, your notes will probably look quite different, since we all have our own ways of abbreviating things. (Note: R = Describe the Role)

The Argument

What I Write

What I’m Thinking

Consumer advocate: It is generally true, at least in this state, that lawyers who advertise a specific service charge less for that service than lawyers who do not advertise. R     A  B  C  D  E

CA: L ads charge <

Something is generally true: lawyers who advertise charge less than those who don’t.

Generally true often means that the author is acknowledging this fact, but is going to argue against it in some way later on. Foreshadowing!

It is also true that each time restrictions on the advertising of legal services have been eliminated, the number of lawyers advertising their services has increased and legal costs to consumers have declined in consequence R     A  B  C  D  E

CA: L ads charge <

< restrict → > ads,  â†“ costs

Another it is true A twist will be coming soon. This first boldface is probably not what the author believes, so it’s probably category 3.
However, eliminating the state requirement that legal advertisements must specify fees for specific services would almost certainly increase rather than further reduce consumers’ legal costs. R     A  B  C  D  E

CA: L ads charge <

< restrict → > ads,  â†“ costs

BUT if no req on fees, costs prob go UP

Bingo! However. Fewer restrictions = generally good (because costs go down) BUT the CA thinks that eliminating the requirement to mention fees in the ads will lead to higher prices. That makes sense. This is probably the CA’s conclusion.
Lawyers would no longer have an incentive to lower their fees when they begin advertising and if no longer required to specify fee arrangements, many lawyers who now advertise would increase their fees. R     A  B  C  D  E

CA: L ads charge <

< restrict → > ads,  â†“ costs

BUT if no req on fees, costs prob go UP b/c no incent to give good price

Yep, these are premises: the lawyers wouldn’t have an incentive to offer a competitive price, and maybe they’d even raise fees. The second boldface is a premise in support of the author’s conclusion.

 

Step 3: State the Goal

This is a Role question, so I have to figure out what roles the two boldface statements play.

The first one does NOT go along with the CA’s argument, so it must be category 3. The information is interesting: the CA acknowledges that it is generally true, but just doesn’t think that it applies to one specific circumstance.

The second boldface supports the CA’s conclusion.

Work from Wrong to Right

 

Answer Choice

What I Write

What I’m Thinking

(A) The first is a generalization that the consumer advocate accepts as true; the second is presented as a consequence that follows from the truth of that generalization.

 

R     A  B  C  D  E

CA: L ads charge <

< restrict → > ads,  â†“ costs

BUT if no req on fees, costs prob go UP b/c no incent to give good price

The description of the first boldface is accurate; the CA does accept that it is true. The second does not go along with the first though. The two are on opposite sides of the fence. Eliminate (A).
(B) The first is a pattern of cause and effect that the consumer advocate argues will be repeated in the case at issue; the second acknowledges a circumstance in which that pattern would not hold.

 

R     A  B  C  D  E

CA: L ads charge <

< restrict → > ads,  â†“ costs

BUT if no req on fees, costs prob go UP b/c no incent to give good price

Hmm. The first one is a pattern, but the CA thinks that it will NOT be repeated in the special case described. This answer is not correct.
(C) The first is a pattern of cause and effect that the consumer advocate predicts will not hold in the case at issue; the second offers a consideration in support of that prediction.

 

R     A  B  C  D  E

CA: L ads charge <

< restrict → > ads,  â†“ costs

BUT if no req on fees, costs prob go UP b/c no incent to give good price

Read carefully! The opening part of the answer looks the same as (B), but there’s a crucial difference: yes, the CA does believe that the pattern will NOT hold in the special case described.

What about the second piece? The language gets confusing: in support of what prediction? The word prediction is used in the first half to describe the CA. The CA predicts something. The second boldface is used to support the CA’s prediction, so this choice looks good. Check the others.

(D) The first is evidence that the consumer advocate offers in support of a certain prediction; the second is that prediction.

 

R     A  B  C  D  E

CA: L ads charge <

< restrict → > ads,  â†“ costs

BUT if no req on fees, costs prob go UP b/c no incent to give good price

The CA does predict something but does not use the first boldface to support that prediction. Rather, the first boldface contradicts the CA’s prediction. Eliminate (D).
(E) The first acknowledges a consideration that weighs against the main position that the consumer advocate defends; the second is that position.

 

R     A  B  C  D  E

CA: L ads charge <

< restrict → > ads,  â†“ costs

BUT if no req on fees, costs prob go UP b/c no incent to give good price

The first boldface does go against what the CA believes. The second boldface is that position”what position?

The CA’s main position is the conclusion. The second boldface is not the CA’s conclusion, though; rather it is support for the CA’s conclusion. Eliminate (E).

 

The correct answer is (C).

Note that the language of the answer choices is very confusing. Try to keep the three main categories in mind: (1) it IS the conclusion, (2) it SUPPORTS the conclusion, (3) it’s anything other than 1 or 2. That classification will make it easier to get rid of some answer choices, even if you don’t fully follow the convoluted language.

Take-aways for CR Role questions:

(1) The question stem will usually include the word role and will almost always (but not always!) include bold font in the argument.

(2) Once you realize you have a Role question, classify the boldface font into one of the three categories discussed above.

(3) If you struggle to understand what a choice says, ask yourself whether the language most likely goes with category 1, 2, or 3. That might be enough to help you eliminate the answer.

 

* GMATPrep questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this question does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

 

Stacey Koprince

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Stacey Koprince is an Instructor and Trainer as well as the Director of Online Community for Manhattan Prep. She also co-manages the company's GMAT curriculum and product line. She has been teaching various standardized tests for more than fifteen years and her entire teaching philosophy can be summed up in five words: teaching students how to think.

One response to Analyzing a Critical Reasoning Boldface Question

  1. mumbijoh@gmail.com December 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Hi Stacey,
    Thank you for this post.
    .However i don’t really understand why B is wrong.
    In the first bold statement the CA acknowledges that this pattern would continue “It is also true that each time restrictions on the advertising of ”
    Then in the 2nd he states that he doesn’t think that pattern would hold.
    Am i missing something?

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